In her Nov. 11 letter to the editor, reader Natasha Mayers of Whitefield reminds us that the Kellogg-Briand Pact, enacted in 1929, remains in effect today.

The pact, authored by U.S. Secretary of State Frank Kellogg and French Foreign Minister Aristide Briand, attempted to outlaw war and was founded on the hope that diplomacy could solve all disputes. It is worth noting that the pact, signed by a large number of countries including Germany, provided for no sanctions in the event of violation. One supposes that this was for a reason: The imposition of sanctions might lead to war.

Sadly, as with so many other world views emanating from Pollyanna, the Kellogg-Briand Pact not only fell short of the mark, but adherence to its principles set the stage for World War II. As Winston Churchill wrote in “The Gathering Storm,” the first of his six-volume memoir of the war, Germany was systematically violating the terms of the Treaty of Versailles even before it put its own signature to the pact, a practice that continued unabated afterward.

Further, as Churchill noted, it was the fear of war that prevented both Britain and France from stepping in to enforce the treaty’s terms, allowing Hitler to gain greater strength as well as build his confidence that he could continue to do as he pleased without outside interference. World War II was far worse than it might have been had action been taken sooner.

It was only after Germany attacked Poland that Britain and France declared war, and then only reluctantly, as they were signatories with Poland on a mutual defense treaty. Their primary concern was that failure to act would make their word worthless to the rest of the world.

Perhaps Teddy Roosevelt said it best: “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”

Michael A. Smith